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Pros and Cons of breeding at Three

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  • Pros and Cons of breeding at Three

    I was curious to hear more thoughts on breeding the three year old mare. I have read through the old threads but wanted some fresh opinions. I am mostly interested when the intention is for them to go on to be performance horses. I would be keen to hear any experiences from breeders on whether they do this commonly or feel overall it has worked out positively or negatively for them.

    This is more common overseas it seems, any thoughts on why it is less popular in North America?
    What factors do you use to decide whether to have a foal at three or to just pursue a riding horse program fulltime? Or, if she is intended to be a broodmare, do you wait until after her inspection at three, then breed at four? Does the sales status of the mare affect your decision?
    Does anyone have experience to share, positive or negative, on how it impacted a mare's future performance career to have had a foal at three? Presumably the mare is both bred and started under saddle in the spring, then given the winter/following spring off to have her foal. Any experiences as to how she comes back from foaling to her under saddle work? Does she then seem behind her peers at horse shows as a four and five year old?
    If your mares are presented in foal to their mare inspection in the fall of their three year old year, what happens if your they do not perform as well as expected? Do you then regret that she was already bred, or does that just solidify to you her future path as performance horse rather then broodmare? Alternatively, if the mare does way better than expected, would you reconsider her performance career and keep her as a fulltime broodmare?

  • #2
    As a rule I breed my mares at 3 and so far it has worked out well. I like to breed them early in the year, if possible, then get them going under saddle. Then I let them have the late summer/fall/winter off and get them going again after foaling as 4 year olds. It worked out ideally for me with my current 4 year old. She was bred in February, started under-saddle and ridden from about March-May and then was off until after the foal was several months old. I breed jumpers, so this works well for me, as I personally don't like to start my horses jumping under-saddle until they are 4. Her foal was weaned in June and she went into full-time training at a show barn in August. It hasn't seemed to set her back at all as she seems to be on track to do the 5 year old jumper classes next year.

    This years 3 year old didn't work out quite so perfectly. She was bred early and then lost it between 14 and 30 days. I had already commited to sending her to be backed (there's a waiting list and I don't want to ever loose my spot), so couldn't breed her again until later in the year. Now she is due for a June 2013 foal and that does interfere with my plans to have her ready for the 5 year old jumpers. However, she may just stay home for a couple of years to have a few foals, instead.

    If it is a mare that is for sale I often don't breed those mares, as the market for riding horses is bigger than the market for young mares in foal (at least in my experience).
    Already excited about our 2016 foals! Expecting babies by Indoctro, Diamant de Semilly, Zirocco Blue and Calido!
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    • #3
      I did it for the first time this year. I'm a big advocate for not pushing young horses too much. My mare turned 3 in early February, I started her very lightly under saddle. I bred her in May, and for a couple months continued to work her lightly, a couple times a week. By about 3 1/2 months she was starting to say "enough". She just wasn't so happy to come out and work and her energy had decreased a bit. I said okay, and quit riding her. She's now happy as a clam out in the pasture. My plan is to breed her again next year, then after that foal is weaned put her under saddle again.

      I just don't mind waiting, I'm not in a huge hurry to push them for young horse classes. With the particular mare mentioned above, my plan is to let her have those two foals, then put her into the show ring for a while and try to move her up the levels.
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      • #4
        Hillside, I love your plan. That's the way to do it IMO.
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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Hillside, thanks for your detailed answer!
          Just a few questions, do you present your mares to a mare inspection for your registry at three?
          Also, are these mares that you intend to keep in sport or return to the breeding shed after they do the five year old classes?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by winter View Post
            Hillside, thanks for your detailed answer!
            Just a few questions, do you present your mares to a mare inspection for your registry at three?
            Also, are these mares that you intend to keep in sport or return to the breeding shed after they do the five year old classes?
            I present my mares at the youngest age possible. The two mares above were presented as 2 1/2 year olds (fall of 2 year old year), b/c AHHA will inspect mares at that age. For the two, coming 3-year olds I have for next year, they will be presented to a different registry at 3 years of age (as early as they accept them) and will hopefully be pregnant at that point. I want the mares to be inspected before foaling, that way if something should happen to them (god forbid) and the foal is left behind it can still be registered, b/c mom is already approved.

            Both of the mares mentioned above are hopefully going to go as far up the levels as they can before coming home and being broodmares. I forgot to mention that we did flush an embryo from the 4 year old this year, so even though she'll be showing next year we will still (hopefully) have a baby from her. I know a lot of good breeders who feel that their broodmares are too valuable as breeding animals to go into sport, and I know very good breeders that feel a mare can't do both things successfully. I respect those views. However, I like mares to have a performance record whenever possible; it is just a personal philosophy. However, I haven't been breeding for a terribly long time, so perhaps I will change my mind in the future in that regard (I reserve that right )
            Already excited about our 2016 foals! Expecting babies by Indoctro, Diamant de Semilly, Zirocco Blue and Calido!
            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hills...h/112931293227

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Hillside H Ranch View Post
              As a rule I breed my mares at 3 and so far it has worked out well. I like to breed them early in the year, if possible, then get them going under saddle. Then I let them have the late summer/fall/winter off and get them going again after foaling as 4 year olds. It worked out ideally for me with my current 4 year old. She was bred in February, started under-saddle and ridden from about March-May and then was off until after the foal was several months old. I breed jumpers, so this works well for me, as I personally don't like to start my horses jumping under-saddle until they are 4. Her foal was weaned in June and she went into full-time training at a show barn in August. It hasn't seemed to set her back at all as she seems to be on track to do the 5 year old jumper classes next year.
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              • #8
                Yep...I have done it several times too including this year. I bred her in the spring, she then went to mare inspection in Sept and then staright to the trainers to start under saddle. She is coming home after 30 days with walk-trot-canter and good ground work. We will ride her lightly at home over the fall/early winter gradualy reducing work as she indicates she is ready. She will foal in spring and then go back under saddle in fall for her perfomance career. This has worked for me well in the past including with her dam
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                • #9
                  I don't ride them until four. I bred my one mare at three and started her after the baby. I think breeding them young keeps you from pushing too hard too young, which I think is a big problem. She went on to GP and I am SO sorry I didn't breed her again earlier. But, the idea is for a talented performance horse to get some babies as they're going along. I don't think it's an issue to breed them and show them as you go along, either. I LOVE riding pregnant mares.

                  I was at a breeding conference at the World Cup in Vegas and there were big wigs of all breed registrations. Some of this came up. They talked about breeding at two, which some registries do, but I believe the Dutch rep. was saying she felt it loosened their ligaments in the pelvis too much before they were developed, but pretty much everyone was good with three.

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                  • #10
                    I don't think that breeding at three is as uncommon in the states as you may think.

                    Many people want to breed the mare before she starts her real work at 4ish. This decision is often made based on the mare's outings as a foal on the line and/or bloodlines. It is easier to see what she'll throw before her career begins, and having a baby and starting at four (even if backed for a while at three) doesn't often make a whole lot of difference to the 7 year old...or the 10 year old ...or the 12 year old at or beginning the peak of her career. It can be hard to breed the successful teenaged show horse, even with superovulation and surrogate moms.

                    Others breed the three year old and base the mare's career on the quality of the foal and the mare's ability under saddle. Many will "finish" the mare in the young horse classes, or with a good show record to "x" level, and then retire her to broodie status with a good show record - enhancing the "resume" of the offspring. If the mare turns out not to be a superstar broodmare prospect, she can be sold as a professionally trained and shown horse. If she is a good broodmare prospect, she's proven herself to some degree at inspections and in the show ring. She's shown that she can be trained, excel at the job of a specific discipline, and score well undersaddle by a judge. Since the mare is at least half the equation, that's meaningful in regards to the "resume" of the foal.

                    I think most breeders already have a good idea how the foals will inspect, and the quality of the mare, before they go to inspection.
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